Bridget A New Australian by J. Moloney
Published by Scholastic Australia
Horses had always fascinated Bridget Nelligan, but she had never dreamt that a love of horses would eventually determine her whole future.
The first time Bridget ever rode on a horse was when Mr Penderbury, their landlord, pulled her up onto the big broad back of his magnificent steed, called Shandy. Mr Penderbury needed Bridget to direct him to her family’s tiny cottage, which nestled in the Irish countryside, but she was shocked when he delivered the news to her mother, that they were to vacate the family home within the week.
The day when Mr Penderbury’s men set fire to their cottage, the entire Nelligan family found themselves out on the open road, in the cold wind and rain, homeless and with nowhere to go. Grandma Nelli always believed in the luck of the fairies, but they were of no help to her when she died of starvation and cold at the side of the road. The family’s only hope of survival was to go into the workhouse, where they could earn a miserable living picking oakum (old rope), which made Bridget’s fingers so sore that they bled.
The death of Bridget’s sister, Hannah, due to dysentery, caused Mrs Nelligan to do something to save the rest of the family from succumbing to the same fate. She makes Bridget and her sister, Maeve, agree to accept the new government scheme of travelling by ship to Australia, where they needed workers, and where they could start a new life and earn money to eventually pay for the rest of the family to join them.
Bridget found that the unbearable heat of the Australian sun soon replaced the bone-chilling cold of the workhouse, and she and her sister began working long and exhausting hours as servants for the Driscoll family, who lived in Brisbane. Unfortunately Mrs Driscoll was mean spirited and treated the girls badly, punishing them both for the least little mistake. When Maeve runs away from the Driscoll household, Bridget later learns that Maeve has married a farmer named McDougall, and that she now lives on a farm in Mount Samsom. Bridget sets out to join her sister, in the hope of finding work on the farm, but alas, the farm is just a tent in a field and the farmhouse has not yet been built.
After rescuing a beautiful but viciously wild-tempered horse named Terror, Bridget’s animal management technique was noticed by Mrs Joyner, a wealthy farmer and landowner of Samsonvale Run. Bridget’s future is immediately secured with a job as a horse and cattle worker, and she is at last able to write a letter to her family telling them that their passage to Australia will be paid for by Mrs Joyner, who has jobs waiting for them all. Bridget couldn’t be happier.
J. Moloney gives the reader a picture of the Australian landscape in the early days of pioneering spirit, and the challenges, hopes and fears faced by a poor, but daring twelve-year-old girl, who boldly sets out to make a life for herself, and to eventually rescue her family from one of Ireland’s notorious workhouses.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: J. Moloney
Title: Bridget A New Australian
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Published: February 2015